Watchdogs Say Changes to NYS Ethics Laws Fall So Far Short,
They Should Not Have Been Enacted
New Appointment Process Suffers
from an Inherent, Profound Conflict of Interest
In a letter to New York’s statewide officials and legislative leaders – who will be charged with appointing the new Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government – watchdog groups highlighted the deficiencies of the new law, saying that the changes fall so far short, they should not have been enacted.
The group letter focused on the lack of independence in the selection process. The watchdogs said that there is an obvious conflict between an elected official’s duty to select a person who will enforce the law without fear or favor and their self-interest in avoiding or minimizing accountability should they violate the state’s ethics laws.
Further, the groups said it is akin to having electric utility companies pick the members of the Public Service Commission.
The post-appointment vetting role of the law school deans does nothing to mitigate these conflicts. The deans are limited to reviewing background and expertise; if the deans reject elected officials’ appointees, which may take great fortitude, they simply get to appoint another.
The letter also highlights six areas where action should be taken to fix the state’s ethics laws:
- Discriminatory harassment;
- Reporting misconduct; and
- Removing preferential treatment of the legislature.
The full letter is available here.
See also the March 2022 proposal from watchdog groups to create an independent commission, with safeguards to ensure independence and transparency.
Ben Weinberg, Citizens Union, 347-291-4199
Evan Davis, Committee to Reform the State Constitution, 518-962-2856
Susan Lerner, Common Cause/NY, 212-691-6421
Laura Ladd Bierman, League of Women Voters of New York State, 518-727-0350
Blair Horner, New York Public Interest Research Group, 518-436-0876 x257
Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany, 518-859-5307
Erica Vladimer, Gender Justice and Workplace Protection Advocate, 732-245-9517